Kuwait and revoking citizenship
Revoking a person’s citizenship is not limited to Arab countries who suffer from grave threats due to extremism
When the UAE government revoked the citizenship of six individuals end of last year, a barrage of criticism was stirred because many considered the decision to be an arbitrary act with political aims. However the shock was compounded with the Kuwaiti interior minister’s recent announcement that the country would revoke the citizenship of 10 people, of whom the most prominent is extremist preacher Nabil al-Awadhi. Extremist groups have realized that the silence of governments has enabled them to act freely, ensuring them protection and free movement especially if they are unarmed. These groups have now lost. Over the past few years, extremists succeeded in building mutually-reinforcing networks across borders, including with in the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Britain, France and other countries. Some were bold enough to threaten different factions of society, thus benefiting from the spread of terrorism. However, this network is collapsing after governments decided to besiege it via different means. Political authorities found that targeting leaderss is better than pursuing followers and that revoking citizenship will stop individuals who act as figure heads. This would send a strong message that the government will not be content with security checks and lawsuits but will resort to exerting its maximum power to bring down figures whom it considers dangerous to its national security.
Perhaps the most famous incident of revoking citizenship is the case of Osama bin Laden, whose citizenship was revoked by the Saudi government in the 1990sAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Revoking a person’s citizenship is an extremely harsh punishment because it may lead to expulsion from the country and loss of privileges related to employment and housing benefits. It may also lead to revoking the citizenship of others who are dependent on him, for example family members who attained citizenship after the person in question.
Perhaps the most famous incident of revoking citizenship is the case of Osama bin Laden, whose citizenship was revoked by the Saudi government in the 1990s, before he established the al-Qaeda organization.
The Egyptian government had complained that Osama bin Laden was linked to terrorist operations on its soil and that he was conspiring against the state. This pushed Saudi Arabia to give a warning to Bin Laden, who had already fled to Sudan. However, Bin Laden was not deterred so the Saudi government revoked his citizenship. It was later proven that this move helped Saudi Arabia repudiate Bin Laden’s crimes across the world.
Not limited to the Arab world
Revoking a person’s citizenship is not limited to Arab countries who suffer from grave threats due to extremism. It is also practiced by Western countries whose governments objected to such decisions in the past. In Britain, the House of Lords agreed to revoke the nationality of citizens born in the country and that of naturalized citizens if they are proven to have links with terrorism or if they have been linked to any act that threatens the state’s national security.
British authorities revoked the nationality of 20 people after an arduous legal battle. However, after the House of Lords approved the legislation on revoking the nationality of anyone who poses a threat to national security, Britain’s extremists became afraid. They became afraid of being found guilty on terrorism charges, having their citizenship revoked and facing the possibility of being expelled from the country.
Just as extremists and terrorists benefitted from collective cooperation across borders, governments have also begun to collectively act to contain this risk which threatens everyone. The recent Kuwaiti move of revoking the citizenship of 10 people - due to reasons that include the threat of extremism - has cornered the few Arab countries who embrace such extremists. Such countries will eventually find themselves cornered, and an easy target for this consensus against terrorists and extremists.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on August 14, 2014.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.